SOMERSET ARMY CADETS - A BRIEF HISTORY
1900 saw the first army cadet unit founded in Somerset at Bath – 1st Cadet Corps of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, (1 Vol Bn Som LI).
1912 saw the Church Lads Brigade (CLB) in Somerset receive receive official recognition as army cadets. These formed the majority of the early units within the county, expanding to 4 battalions, all of which had become affiliated to the King’s Royal Rifles Corps by 1918.
WW1. Throughout the Great War the cadets in Somerset carried out important roles in support of the war effort by acting as messengers, assisting with Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospitals, working on harvest camps and helping provide guards at vulnerable points. For their work special commendations were awarded to the OC of the Queen’s College Cadet Battalion (QCCB) and the 1st Cadet Corps, 4th Bn Somerset Light Infantry (Territorial Force), (1 Cdt Corps 4 Som LI (TF)).
1915 saw the first open unit formed at Wedmore as a Cadet Corps of the 4th Bn Somerset Light Infantry (Territorial Force), (4 Som LI (TF)), under the command of Capt WG Burrough. Other school based units were raised, mostly in Grammar Schools, also including the Queen’s College Cadet Battalion (QCCB) at Taunton of the 5th Bn Somerset Light Infantry (Territorial Force), (5 Som LI (TF)).
1916 saw Somerset form the only cadet unit to be deployed on active service abroad during WW1. The Severn Cadet Corps was raised at Portishead and comprised 1 officer and 115 other ranks. It served in France by making petrol cans to support the growing tanks and mechanised transport units. Two cadets were killed during their time in France, probably in accidents, as smoking - so commonplace in those days - and petrol did not make for safe bedfellows!
The post-Great War years started with many strong cadet units across the county, all being a part of their local TA Somerset Light Infantry battalion. The emphasis of training moved to sport and shooting with particular success in the King’s Shield miniature rifle shooting competition by the 1st Cadet Corps, 4th Bn Somerset Light Infantry (Territorial Force), (1 Cdt Corps 4 Som LI (TF)).
1930 saw the loss of official recognition and the banning of the wearing of regimental badges and the use of TA drill halls. This resulted in the loss of the open cadet units, leaving the grammar school units to keep alive the cadet movement outside of the Officer Training Corps (OTC).
1935 was marked by the removal of the CLB units from the army cadet movement, which affected the county greatly.
WW2. The army cadets steadily grew back during World War Two, expanding to six Somerset battalions by the end of the war, working closely with the Home Guard and providing a presence in most towns and many villages throughout the county. In some instances special units were raised in factories for the boy employees (Westland’s Company of the 3rd Army Cadet Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry). In 1942 all of the non-JTC army cadet units joined the newly formed Army Cadet Force. The army cadets continued with the roles that they undertook during the previous war. At one time, so it is reported, Coleford Platoon (a former unit in the N Coy area) had over 1000 cadets!
In the post-war period the ACF in Somerset evolved from providing pre-service support to the period of National Service (1946-61) to being a part of today’s Army sponsored youth organisation that is proud of its role as a part of the county regiment. Over that time a quarter of its strength was lost through the creation of the County of Avon (1974) but eventually most of these units returned. 1968 saw all units re-badging to The Light Infantry, being the last unit to give up the badge of the old Somerset Light Infantry. Shooting become a strong feature with the Chard School unit being prominent in the Watts Bowl competition. In recent years the battalion has been particularly active in the fields of Shooting, Ten Tors, First Aid, Claire Shaw Trophy, Light Division Cup and at the Nijmegen Marches. In 2007 the county re-badged following the amalgamation of The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire & Wiltshire Light Infantry (RGBWLI), The Light Infantry (LI), The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ), The Devonshire & Dorset Regiment (D&D) as well as a TA unit, The Royal Rifle Volunteers, to form The Rifles - the largest infantry regiment in the Army.